Business Think

8 Rules for Getting it Right - Now and No Matter What

Rules for Getting It Right - 
Now and No Matter What!
by Dave Marcum, Steve Smith, and Mahan Khalsa
Forward by Stephen R. Covey

Question 1:  How did the theory of businessThink originate? What made you decide to write a book?

Answer:  We were compelled to write businessThink because we see a lot of unnecessary failure in business, which hasn’t changed in decades. Having experienced the failure first hand, we felt it was time to start learning from it rather than closing our eyes to it. What we noticed when we opened our eyes, was there are addictions we all have in business that get in the way of being great businessThinkers; the power we wield (or perceived lack thereof), our lack of curiosity in the name of "obedience," or playing it safe, playing politics, being defensive, crowding out others by our arrogance, speed for the sake of speed, being "busy"…the list could go on (for way too long).

Question 2:  Do the concepts you have set out in Businessthink apply across cultures? Specifically, how much of what you list in your new book is as applicable in Singapore as it is in New York or London and how important is the cultural component in terms of what you have set out in the book?

Answer: In response to the second question, our answer would be a resounding YES!  We have taught these ideas in over 40 countries around the world, including India, China, Singapore, London, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand just to name a few. We have found that many of the principles are so fundamental that they transcend language groups and cultures. While there is usually some adaptation required for culture or personal style, they simply apply and work in most human interactions to produce more effective outcomes.

Question 3:  The concept of "face" is a very important one in Asia, how does this concept relate to what you have set out in your new book businessthink?

Answer: businessThink is an approach to handling interactions with others in a better way, in a way that allows everyone due credit for their ideas and contributions. The ability to businessThink requires as a foundation the ability to create safety for all to feel free to contribute their opinions and perspectives openly and without fear of retribution or losing face. No ideas are stupid. Rather businessThink seeks to build on the ideas of others no matter how quirky they may seem. Involving others in decisions doesn't improve the outcome unless there is a common platform for how you think together, communicate together in a way that sustains open dialogue and how you decide together. 

It strikes us that there is also a downside to "face" in Asian culture.  Many decisions that are poor are not recognized because to do so would have a negative effect on the "face" of a superior. There seems to be a strong influence in Asian business culture that is hierarchical and perceived as very respectful. If business results are to be improved, it seems that this respect and "face" can be preserved without having to stamp out willingness of others to contribute. And it will have to be done carefully wth language--the language of humility. It also seems that many decisions are delayed or not made in order to save "face" of the "boss" whose thinking may not be the best, yet there is reluctance to say how you feel candidly. 

We could be completely wrong in our observations, but we have observed that this challenge exists in organizations worldwide because a majority of business interactions are motivated by unhealthy ego. As a result, we make decisions based on protecting one's ego.

Question 4:  You talk about 8 rules that will produce this revolution and will cultivate a fundamentally new way of thinking, communicating, and decision-making in business, anywhere in the world, at any level in an organization. How did you come up with them and which ones are the most important?

Answer:  We developed these rules from our own time in the trenches, where we failed as much as we succeeded. While they’re all important, "checking your ego at the door" and "driving curiosity" into every conversation, meeting and strategy session would make a huge impact if that’s all we did. Just look around your own organization and calculate the cost of ego. Most people acknowledge it’s enormous.

Question 5:  In teaching the business community how to "think" business all of the time, what are the main behaviors they must change?

Answer:  The first, and maybe last, behavior is impulse control. We have to resist our impulse to be "right" and take a step back—eliminate ego and "turn on" corporate curiosity. The higher the pain, the quicker we want to get rid of it, and so we aren’t willing to do vital critical thinking. We let our enthusiasm for a solution override our discipline to put our decision through solid businessThinking.

Question 6:  What workforce skills are most in demand and will be needed most over the next two to five years?

Answer:  When Accenture interviewed 500 executives worldwide, and asked that very question, the overwhelming answer was business skills (decision making, working cross-functionally, project management and communicating effectively). Surprisingly, not only did they need business skills the most, they also expect them to be in short supply. Yet most people think they have them already.

Question 7:  What do you think is the biggest obstruction to successful leadership?

Answer:  Ego—it causes you to lead in an isolated, exclusionary, self-defined, worship-worthy way. Ego shuts out thinking and curiosity in a company. Additionally, it takes the very strengths that lead to great leadership, and imperceptibly turns them into weaknesses. For example, a great leader may have tremendous confidence as an attribute. When multiplied by ego, confidence turns into a sense of infallibility. Perseverance when multiplied by ego easily turns into resistance to change or an unwillingness to hear others’ ideas.

Question 8:  In businessThink, you use the term "solution seduction." What is this?

Answer:  Companies seem to be addicted to "solutions." People want "quick fixes" to the problems they face—and it ends up being neither a quick nor a real fix. We have developed what seems to be a mutual conspiracy between everyone to talk prematurely about a solution before there is mutual understanding of the underlying issues, evidence, and financial impact on the company. Solutions have no inherent value—they only derive value from the problems they solve or the results they get. Then, and only then, should the discussion turn to the solution. The seductive part is mental adrenaline that talking about the "solution" creates and we are hooked into thinking we are solving the problem, when in actuality we are not.

Question 9:  In terms of looking for the best possible return on investment, what big expense should be eliminated as it is often mistaken for an answer,  but is in fact a "fake solution"?

Answer:  Peter Drucker once said, "Marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation. Everything else is a cost." Any expense (technology, training, teams, projects), no matter how vogue or sophisticated it sounds, should be eliminated if it can’t justify its own existence in increasing revenue or decreasing costs, compared to other initiatives going on in the company.

Question 10:  In a sticky situation, what happens when people pound on the panic button? What should they do instead?

Answer:  The situation gets stickier and people become more panicked in pursuit of a fast solution. The tendency to panic, a subset of speed, makes them less discriminating about what it is they’re doing as long as they are in fact doing something—anything. That’s why events can feel like solutions because pure activity for activity sake is disguised as solving and creating, especially when they can spend money and form teams; this frequently only gives the illusion of progress. What they should do is SLOW DOWN. If it’s true that they will do something about the "sticky" situation, then their thinking better be clear enough to find the evidence that proves both that they should take action, and what specific action they should take.

Question 11: What is the most common topic that, upon being brought up, can cause extreme discomfort? How can this discomfort be alleviated?

Answer:  It’s not the topic that’s the problem or the cause of discomfort—it’s the reaction to the topic…the way things are communicated and received. Anything should be a comfortable topic, and not off limits, if you know how to businessThink it. The best way to address this is to learn to stop wrapping your self-worth around your ideas.

Question 12: What is the one question, a question that encourages people to share their beliefs, opinions, observations, or viewpoints, that is often overlooked but could be a quick route to a solution?

Answer:  There isn’t just one question. There are no easy answers, but there is an easier way to get the right answers. That’s why we need to upgrade our mental operating systems to businessThink. There is an "ecology" of questions and responses that invite people to open up and share their perspectives. If there were one question it would be a question to yourself regarding your intent, "Am I looking for validation of my own thoughts and agenda or am I truly interested in what others candidly think and staying on the business agenda?"

Question 13: What is the purpose of the pursuit of business evidence?

Answer:  Pure and simple, it is PROOF. Just because someone thinks there is a problem, does that make it so? Every decision to solve a problem is on trial. If it doesn’t go to trial with you first, it will definitely be on trial when you take it to the rest of the company, or when it hits the marketplace. Before you go to trial, you need a compelling case with evidence that the problem or opportunity you believe needs a solution actually does need a solution. If you don’t have evidence, there is no reason to do anything—PERIOD.

For more information about the book, the businessThink workshops and the authors, please contact:
Janita Jesseramsing Anderson at , Tel. 001-801-362-9395
About the Interviewer:   

Christopher W. Runckel, a former senior US diplomat who served in many counties in Asia, is a graduate of the University of Oregon and Lewis and Clark Law School. He served as Deputy General Counsel of President Gerald Ford’s Presidential Clemency Board. Mr. Runckel is the principal and founder of Runckel & Associates, a Portland, Oregon based consulting company that assists businesses expand business opportunities in Asia. (

Until April of 1999, Mr. Runckel was Minister-Counselor of the US Embassy in Beijing, China. Mr. Runckel lived and worked in Thailand for over six years. He was the first permanently assigned U.S. diplomat to return to Vietnam after the Vietnam War. In 1997, he was awarded the U.S. Department of States highest award for service, the Distinguished Honor Award, for his contribution to improving U.S.-Vietnam relations. Mr. Runckel is one of only two non-Ambassadors to receive this award in the 200-year history of the U.S. diplomatic service.

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